It’s a different time and place. Technology has literally brought the world to our doorstep and news travels the globe faster than the blink of an eye thanks to broadband media and social network sharing via platforms such as Twitter and Facebook. We are constantly run over on the information highway by images and news (some positive but frequently disturbing or upsetting) from around the world. Does all the graphic imagery carry with it a consequence? Of course it does.
What Causes Chronic Worrying?
Individual personality characteristics share some common features but vary by individual. Results of personality testing shows that some individuals are more sensitive or score higher on degrees of openness than other individuals. This degree of sensitivity can be translated into anxiety quite easily when bombarded by stressors from a variety of sources including interpersonal, career, financial and even health issues. The average person will become frequently concerned by issues that are sourced from those domains and discounted as simply “part of life”. And it is. But for some people “life” has got a lot harder to ignore or process while they are bombarded with excessive negative stimuli.
Everyone worries. It’s human nature and worrying has an important function in that it allows us to extrapolate what is bothering us and identify if it is within our power to influence or change, or whether it is something that we cannot improve or resolve. So worrying itself while it carries with it a negative connotation actually has a very practical and important purpose in our lives. It helps us derive solutions to our problems and issues. After we are “done” worrying about a specific issue miraculously we tend to find a solution to employ and move on.
But for some people there is no end to the amount that they will worry. Chronic worrying becomes problematic for individuals who cannot seem to resolve or provide themselves with closure regarding the issues that they are concerned with. Instead of examining each issue independently, solving or resolving it for closure and moving on, they tend to hold on to the concern without resolution. The problem compounds itself as a new worry emerges and then another and so forth until the person feels entirely overwhelmed by concerns and worrying to the extent that they cannot function. For a chronic worrier it can be a debilitating thing with features very close to that of clinical depression which may immobilize them from functioning in productive ways. It can be a serious emotional disability and incredibly disruptive to the life of the individual.
Chronic worrying is something that is grossly misunderstood and discounted as a condition. In formal psychological diagnoses a chronic worrier suffers from anxiety disorders which can vary in degree of severity from mild to severe. It is a medical condition with the potential to develop into physiological complications including hypertension, sleep disorders, obesity (due to emotional over consumption) and heart attack due to stress. Someone who has an anxiety disorder is more than just someone who simply “worries a lot”. They are in fact individuals who have developed a severe sensitivity to the social environment and lack the ability to cope in a healthful way with stressors beyond their control.
Interestingly enough there is research that links creativity to chronic worrying or anxiety disorders. Creative minded people such as artists, actors, musicians and writers as a vocational population tend to suffer higher degrees of anxiety disorders. Creatives can frequently be “their own worst critic” which in itself is a form of anxiety regarding personal deficiency or insecurities. It can also be surmised that the prevalence of emotional breakdown in creative minded individuals is more common because they are highly sensitive and intuitive individuals who lack the ability to filter out negative stimuli in their environments and remain deeply affected by it due to their hyper vigilant observation of the world around them.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
An effective way to help an individual with chronic worrying or acute anxiety disorders is to provide them with tools to filter out the negative aspects of the world around them and to prevent them from deeply penetrating (further than they should) into their own personal sense of peace and well-being. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) provides these tools generally with a plan of exercises aimed at practicing the desired outcome demonstrated.
For instance, if the individual is “triggered” by reading the morning paper or watching the news first thing in the morning, a CBT therapist may recommend avoidance of news related items for a month. During that time the individual may be asked to practice limited media intake in order to reduce the amount of negative stimuli and to change specific habits and routines. For instance, if the individual experiences anxiety all day long as a result of an intake of stressful stimulus in the morning; by removing that habit every morning, it may reduce some of the systems of anxiety or the duration of it throughout the day.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy provides relief by changing behavior to address the individual’s needs and provides a specific plan for not just coping but actually processing anxiety and recognizing (for the purpose of avoiding) common predictable triggers. It also teaches a strategy for moderating “in the moment” of anxiety to best handle the emotionality and physiological response to anxiety at the time it is being experienced.
Tips for Reducing Chronic Worry
In addition to seeking out professional training and supports for moderating the experience of anxiety, there are certain activities and recommendations that can be applied individually to assist in processing triggers and self-moderating anxiety levels. While they may seem to be common sense items the reality is that individuals with chronic worrying or anxiety disorders are frequently too harshly critical of themselves and frequently require permission to be kind to themselves and not obsess over what they may perceive to be a flaw or defect in the structure of their unique psyche.
There is a great deal that can be done to moderate the experience of anxiety. These tips are easy to employ and can provide some immediate relief for individuals who suffer from anxiety disorders:
• Be aware of your triggers and attempt to avoid them.
• Inform friends or family members of your triggers and the severity of your associated anxiety.
• Remove yourself from the situation or exposure to the trigger immediately.
• Find a quiet place to relax and do deep breathing exercises for calmness.
• Do not worry about what others think about your anxiety. Take care of yourself first.
• Understand that anxiety disorders are very common and legitimate mental health concerns.
• Do not berate yourself for an episode. Be gentle.
It is estimated that more than 40% of the global population suffers from ongoing chronic anxiety disorders and everyone will experience the onset of severe anxiety periodically through their lives. It is neither a source of embarrassment or a personality flaw but rather a reflection on the sensitivity of an individual to the world around them.